Thursday 16 May 2019

Retaliate DX (Commodore 64)

Way back in early 2018 I came across a preview of Marcelo Cabral's Retaliate on CSDB - a simple looking shmup that on first glance appeared to be no more than a generic Space Invaders or Galaga clone. However, upon closer examination my interest was piqued - the production notes described it as a demake of a Android/Roku game of the same name, and the summary page highlighted a novel mechanic whereby you have to collect bullets with your shield in order to fire them back at the enemies - similar to the system Nicolas and I devised for r0x Zer0 on the Atari STE.

After playing the game a few times I could see the potential - in fact, after familiarising myself with the Android version I realised that with a little polish the C64 version could potentially surpass the original - which is quite an uncommon feat for a demake!

At it's core, Retaliate is a high-score chaser, and an unusual one at that. In order to achieve a high score, you can't just camp out and use your shield to survive the waves of enemies - instead you must catch the bullets and take the fight back to your aggressors - hence the title of the game.

After introducing myself to Marcelo, I reached out to Trevor ‘Smila’ Storey, Richard Bayliss, Antonio Savona and Jon Eggleton, and as a team we’ve been assisting Marcelo to further refine the game - Trev redid all the in game art and helped redesign the GUI, Richard composed a new title track, Antonio assisted with the cartridge code and Jon Egg delivered an amazing title screen. Retaliate DX was born. I, on the other hand, simply pestered Marcelo again and again with tweaks and amendments - something that anyone who has worked with me before can probably relate to!

My initial concern involved the player hitbox - in fact the player has two hitboxes - a large one for when the shield is activated (by pulling down on the joystick) and the other for detecting death-collisions with bullets and enemies. No doubt to Marcelo's annoyance, this second hitbox caused me to request revision after revision; the game features several unlockable craft, all with slightly different spite shapes and sizes, yet we needed to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Personally I’ve always been a fan of smaller hitboxes (I love the feeling in shoot em ups when you fluke a near miss), but the original game features full-sprite-width collision detection, so whilst the C64 conversion does now differ, this has involved a lot of conversations about not deviating too much from the source material.

Talking of source, some of you may be interested to know that Marcelo has actually branched off the code for Retaliate and the source code for the game (minus the revised artwork, etc) will remain freely available on github as a ‘community edition’ for people to view and learn from for their own projects.

One of the nicest bonus features that made the transition from the original Roku game is the ability to customise the appearance of the player ship; using sliders you can repaint the hull of your ship and the colour of the shield. From this 'hangar' screen you can also select from the available craft, unlocked by achieving score targets in different difficulty modes, and each complete with slightly different stats.

As it stands, the game is now nearing completion and will hopefully be ready for release within the next couple of months. Marcelo has been frequently sending over new test builds for Antonio and I to play, and already the game seems very far removed from that original beta I played over a year ago. With its refined game play, smoother controls and a wider variety of enemies and attack patterns, we're hoping that you'll soon be enjoying Retaliate DX as much as we have been :)

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